Review: The Wicked Ones (Dark Ascension #1)

Title: The Wicked Ones (Dark Ascension #1)
Author: Robin Benway
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Disney Press
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

“Blood is blood…and one way or another, we all bleed.”

Drizella and Anastasia only know one thing for certain: they will never end up like their mother, Lady Tremaine. When their father left them as young girls, he took what was left of their family’s fortune and their mother’s dignity with him. A few years and one deceased stepfather later, the only version of Lady Tremaine that Drizella and Anastasia know is a bitter and cruel head of house. Anastasia and Drizella have promised themselves―and each other―that they’ll be different. They’ll find love, see the world, and never let their hearts go cold.

But both sisters are all too aware of what it can mean when cast into disfavor with their mother, and fueled by Lady Tremaine’s tendencies to pit the daughters against one another, Drizella and Anastasia are locked into a complicated waltz of tenuous sisterhood. On the cusp of the royal debut party―their one chance to impress the Prince and live up to their mother’s expectations―the sisters at last get a glimpse of what life could be like outside of Lady Tremaine’s intentions: Drizella discovering a love of science and Anastasia sparking a secret romance. But never underestimate the power a mother whose greatest talents lie in manipulation, and the sisters may learn that even the cruelest of hearts can spill blood.

This first book in the new Disney Villains Dark Ascension series by National Book Award-winning author Robin Benway explores the complex sibling rivalry between the two wicked stepsisters from Cinderella that turned them into the characters we know today.


Drizella’s and Anastasia’s lives were changed after their father abandoned them. They were left with their cruel mother, Lady Tremaine. Lady Tremaine remarried, but the man brought a stepsister who was idolized by him, so he didn’t have time for the sisters. After their stepfather died, their stepsister, Ella, was forced to do all the chores and cooking. When the Prince’s debut is announced, Lady Tremaine knows this would be the opportunity to find them each good husbands. However, as the sisters venture out of their home, they discover who they are on their own. Drizella wants to learn about science and Anastasia starts a secret romance with a palace groom. This story shows how they went from sweet sisters to wicked stepsisters. 

This was such a great villain origin story. The wicked stepsisters in the Disney movie Cinderella seem like they’re unnecessarily cruel to Cinderella. Though their anger is a little misguided towards her, this story shows how they were abused and tormented by their mother, leading them towards wickedness. This story followed a similar plot as Cinderella, with a ball at the palace at the climax. However, this story takes place before the events of Cinderella. 

The Wicked Ones is a fun Disney villain origin story!

Content warnings: death of parent, parent abandonment, child abuse, captivity

What to read next:

So This Is Love by Elizabeth Lim

Have you read The Wicked Ones? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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